The day was 15th June, the year was 1670. The foundation stone of what is Europe’s largest fortress, Fort Ricasoli was laid.
Fort Ricasoli was built by the Order of the Knights of Saint John. It occupies a promontory known as Gallows’ Point and the north shore of Rinella Bay, commanding the entrance to Grand Harbour along with Fort Saint Elmo.
The fort saw action during the French invasion of Malta in 1798. Its garrison held out against the French until Grand Master Hompesch capitulated to Napoleon Bonaparte.
It was later taken over by the British, who used it as part of the harbour defences and in later years it was used as military hospital – at one point housing patients during a cholera outbreak.
Parts of the fort were damaged during the aerial bombardments of World War II.
Part of the inward side of the fort is now used by a ship tank cleaning facility while most of the upper part is used for film production.
The fort was famously used for the production of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator in 2000 and other productions partly filmed there include Troy (2004), Agora (2009) and Assassin’s Creed (2016).
The first season of Game of Thrones used various parts of the fort to represent the ‘Red Keep’.
Throughout the years, there have been many calls for the fort to be restored to its former glory, for it to be enjoyed by Maltese and tourists alike, as Mayor Wayne Aquilina explained to Bay today.
“The cry for the total restoration of the Fort Ricasoli remains my cry and the cry of all Kalkara residents, nonetheless,” Mayor Aquilina told Bay, whilst adding that the cry has started to be heard, so much so that, last year a lot of work started, including the eviction of abusive occupants.
“After this and after many years, last December work began on five areas that needed restoration the most. Work is progressing, but that is still not enough. It takes more budget and more effort from many, for this fort to be given the glory it deserves.”
Finally Mr Aquilina calls for this to be done, along with a joint effort so that “we can all take care of this fortress together. I do not want to reach a point where we would have lost this fortress, and will only have old photos to remind us of what was.”
Photos Courtesy of: Assoċċjazzjoni Wirt il-Kalkara